Saturday, December 3


Un-freaking-believable!!! Florida State beats #5 Virginia Tech for the ACC championship! After last week's humiliating loss to the Gators, the Seminoles came back in fighting spirit to defeat the Hokies 27-22.

Now for the Orange Bowl and a possible matchup with Penn State. Go 'Noles!!!


This interesting article from NPR postulates that the object of Dubya's recent speech at Annapolis was the 15% of Americans who supported the war but disagree with Bush's conduct of it.

This group thinks the war was and is necessary, but wants it conducted differently. Some would like to see more U.S. troops sent in to do the job with a broader range of weapons and tactics. Others would just like fewer U.S. casualties and more signs of visible progress.

This group stands poised between the firmer opponents of the war and the firmer supporters -- those who have never wavered in their commitment to staying the course. These intermediates may not represent more than 15 percent of the country, but that's about the difference between Mr. Bush's approval rating a year ago (right after he won his second term) and now. It also approximates the decline we have seen in support for the war itself in polls taken a year ago and now.

Moreover, if these numbers hold, it's hard to imagine the Republican majorities in Congress escaping serious erosion in the elections of 2006. The prospect of a Democratic takeover in one chamber looms. And if even one chamber suddenly has Democrats running its committees, we will see an explosion of congressional investigations into every aspect of the Bush administration -- beginning with the war in Iraq.

By the same theory, if this same 15-percent group could be lured back to supporting President Bush and the war, the "comeback kid" dynamic could dominate his second term. This would be enormously empowering for Republicans and would practically guarantee their continued control of Congress in the elections of 2006 and beyond.

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Thursday, December 1


I've been so angry today (well, actually yesterday, since it's now after midnight) about the revelation that career Department of Justice lawyers in the Civil Rights division were unanimous in their opinion that the 2003 Texas redistricting plan violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act but were overruled by Bush administration political appointees, who approved the plan.

I've been holed up for the past couple of days editing a company film and out of touch with the news except for alerts sent to my Blackberry by the Center for American Progress. When I took a break to check my e-mail today and learned about the WaPo article detailing the "secret memo," I was livid.

This is just another example of Tom DeLay's egregious partisan interference in Texas legislation. It's a sorry episode in Texas political history whose highlights included the "Ex-Terminator" abusing his power to call on Homeland Security to interfere with Texas Senate Democrats, who fled from the state in order to delay a vote on DeLay's redistricting plan. It resulted in the eradication of the Congessional seat of veteran Congressman Martin Frost -- who, I might add, was my own Congressman at the time. The convenient redistricting added five relatively safe seats for Republicans, solidifying the Rethug majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Texas Republican legislators knew the DeLay redistricting plan was likely in violation of the VRA -- but DeLay's minions pushed it through anyway. Wonder why they were so confident that it would be approved by the DOJ!

Why are we just now learning about the machinations in the Justice Department? Because the career lawyers were prevented from exposing their opinion by an unusual "gag rule."

Texas Democrats are challenging the redistricting in court.

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Wednesday, November 30


Heard Michael Ware, Time magazine's Baghdad bureau chief, on Randi Rhodes' AirAmerica show deconstructing Bush's speech today.

Michael scoffed at Dubya's use of the action in Talifar (he was there, embedded with U.S. soldiers) as a model of "how it ought to go." He said far from "leading" the assault, as the president claimed, Iraqi troops were "shoved to the front" and used as "cannon fodder." The Iraqis were completely subject to the U.S. command structure, he stated, and when an Iraqi officer tried to object to some assignment he was "manhandled" and removed from the theater. In addition, the U.S. provided "every weapon in our arsenal" including Bradley tanks and airpower.

I listened to the speech on the radio and sat in a parking lot to hear the final fifteen minutes. It was one long recital of alleged points of progress, many of which an informed person could immediately identify as outright lies or certainly hype. Bush gave no benchmarks by which we can judge forward movement, gave no estimates as to costs that might be incurred, and detailed no new strategies. In short, the speech was no more than one long summary of past P.R. releases, and his 35-page "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" (which I read during lunch) simply a longer version of the speech. Nothing new here.

The Village Voice echoes my own sentiments.

"America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander-in-chief," says Bush, the man who squirmed his way out of Vietnam duty.

The pResident used the words "our enemy" something upward of 20 times (I got distracted and lost count). He defined those we are fighting in three groups, Rejectionists (Sunnis who have lost the power they enjoyed under Saddam), Saddamists (agents of Hussein's regime), and Terrorists. He failed to note that the first two categories comprise 90-95% of those we are fighting -- AND THEY ARE IRAQIS. In other words, we are actively engaged in fighting the very people we came to "liberate."

Bush has said repeatedly that the U.S. wouldn't leave Iraq until the mission is accomplished. That mission has changed several times since we invaded, but currently it seems to be to train and empower Iraqi troops so that they can quell the insurgency, establish democratic institutions that have a chance of enduring after we depart, and secure the output of Iraqi oil fields for American oil companies. That could take 6-12 years.

But who's counting? Certainly not Bush. Notice he didn't tell the American people that today.

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The Nation takes a stand:

The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush's disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation.

We firmly believe that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win the 2006 Congressional elections, the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and the subsequent national election. But this fight, and our stand, must begin now.

In the coming weeks and months The Nation will help identify--and encourage support for--those candidates prepared to bring a speedy end to the war and to begin the hard work of forging a new national security policy that an end to the Iraq War will make possible.

There is no other way to save America's security and honor. And to those Democratic "leaders" who continue to insist that the safer, more electable course is to remain openly or silently complicit in the war, we say, paraphrasing the moral philosopher Hillel: If not now, when? If not you, who?


Laura Rozen discusses the "Salvadoran option" here and here.

This is the Bush-Cheney idea of "exporting American values." While Dubya drifts in a fog of religious fervor, president of vice Cheney advocates torture, the Attorney General provides a legal justification for it, and the Pentagon toys with assassination and kidnapping squads.

Three more years. The mind boggles.

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Xpatrited Texan has a quite excellent poston the death penalty.

Capricious justice is not justice by any name.

It must end. If we cannot be trusted to approach the issue fairly; then we must be responsible and remove from our reach the temptation for the capricious and arbitrary use of what is, beyond cliche, the ultimate punishment.

Tuesday, November 29


I am a scion of a two-centuries-tradition American military family. I am not, and have never been, anti-military. I take no pleasure in Col. Westhusing's tragedy, and I have not noted any such attitudes among any liberal/progressive blogs, and I have been tracking this story since its inception. Indeed, patriots such as Robert Lindsay responded to my earliest posts suggesting that Col. Westhusing's death might have been a suicide with caution and sensitivity.

I do not know why and in what manner Col. Ted Westhusing died. The U.S. Army has said he was a suicide. I understand, and accept, that this is a possibility. But I am one of those few Americans who didn't trust what we were told by the Bush adminstration about Saddam Hussein and the administration's case for the invasion of Iraq, and considering what we know now, I don't trust anything that is claimed by this administration or their representatives.

I remember asking my husband, friends (most of whom said to me something like, "What if he has only a single drop of a chemical weapon that could wipe us all out?") and others, "If Saddam has WMD, why can't the UN inspectors find a trace of them? And if Cheney and Rumsfeld are so certain they know where they are, why don't they tell the UN inspectors? And why are we so anxious to follow a president who was seemingly paralyzed during the most dramatic and tragic incident of terrorism in our history, who spent the first day flying all over the country in an attempt to escape personal danger while our Vice President exercised power that was not his prerogative?" When coworkers asked me (knowing I am the token liberal in a Fortune 250 company -- and perhaps its political conscience?) shortly after 9/11, "Aren't you glad now that Al Gore lost and we're led by Bush?" I was bewildered. What, exactly, did Dubya do except make a tough-guy speech on the rubble of the Two Towers (several days after the fact), promising retribution for the perpetrators that he has yet to deliver?

But I digress. My point is, I have spent several decades trying to make my military family understand that I never meant to disparage their service in Vietnam, I was simply exercising my intellect and independent judgment to aver that that conflict was a net loss for our nation's interests and, most especially, American lives, to serve some pseudo-macho ideal that "America doesn't lose wars." Once again, I have found myself protesting a military incursion that our military leadership opposed, to find that when one does such we are characterized as "anti-military" and "treasonous."

Back to Col. Ted Westhusing. I suspect that he might have shared some of my sentiments. But I also am convinced that this war is like no other military adventure this country has advanced. Yes, the political interests of two presidential administrations (one Democrat, one Republican) overruled military judgment in Vietnam. But never before has civilian (read: chickenhawk) Pentagon leadership so completely ignored, and penalized, the considered and experienced advice of our most senior military leaders.

I am persuaded that Col. Westhusing, military ethics expert and champion that he was, was completely unprepared, as many of us would have been in the same circumstances, to face the corruption, expedience, and incompetence with which this war has been waged. Perhaps that is why, just the day after his death was announced in the media, I focused so immediately upon his story. I, too, am an idealist. I was as a teenager a DAR citizenship winner. I was a cast member of the ultra-patriotic "Up With People." I hoped to be (my dad was a career senior Air Force officer) one of the first women admitted to one of the military academies. Vietnam (an experience I shared with my dad) changed my perspective. Daddy used to say to me, "Remember what Ike (one of his personal heroes) said: beware the military-industrial complex. Never surrender your personal judgment, although if you're in the military you must subordinate your own beliefs to military discipline. Don't join up if you can't do that."

That is an incredibly difficult assignment for those who are faced with marked choices between honor and obedience. I was lucky that I was only a teenager when the Vietnam conflict ended -- I didn't have to make that choice. I was free to protest the war while still supporting our troops. And I still insist that there is no conflict there. I can honor service to our country while decrying those who would use that dedication ill.



How do you reason with a man who thinks, like the Blues Brothers, that he's "on a mission from God"? Read Sy Hersh's frightening article.

Current and former military and intelligenc officials have told me that the President remain convinced that it is his personal mission to brin democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious t political pressure, even from fello Republicans. They also say that he disparage any information that conflicts with his view o how the war is proceeding.

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.

The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”
“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said.
The fear is that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would inevitably trigger a Sunni-Shiite civil war. In many areas, that war has, in a sense, already begun, and the United States military is being drawn into the sectarian violence. An American Army officer who took part in the assault on Tal Afar, in the north of Iraq, earlier this fall, said that an American infantry brigade was placed in the position of providing a cordon of security around the besieged city for Iraqi forces, most of them Shiites, who were “rounding up any Sunnis on the basis of whatever a Shiite said to them.” The officer went on, “They were killing Sunnis on behalf of the Shiites,” with the active participation of a militia unit led by a retired American Special Forces soldier. “People like me have gotten so downhearted,” the officer added.

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William Raspberry gets at least one thing right in this column:

If a sound exit plan means getting out without leaving Iraq less stable than it is now, and with a reasonable chance of becoming an American-style democracy, nobody has one.

Jack Murtha is right. We cannot win in Iraq. The generals know it, and they're beginning to tell anyone who'll listen, and that doesn't include George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice or Don Rumsfeld. So it's time for Democratic politicians to get off the fence and endorse the Murtha Resolution:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.
Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

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WaPo seems determined to make the ethics issue a bipartisan one. Throughout this article about the commingling of money and politics, they emphasize that recent indictments and investigations of Republicans, which are widespread and with more being revealed every week, are accompanied by that of a single Democrat, Louisiana's William J. Jefferson. It's umpteen-to-one, but, they say, it's a Democratic problem as well as Republican.

The polls may support the notion that the public disapproves of the way both parties are handling their jobs in Congress, but the spread between favorable and unfavorable definitely favors the Democrats, who have (depending on the poll) a negative difference of 8-13 between the two ratings; Republicans have a 20+ negative difference. So while both parties are clearly suffering public distrust, the Republicans are, fittingly, suffering the greater.

There is no covering up for the fact that the ethics problems being investigated are overwhelmingly that of Republican politicos. But WaPo does its best. Considering the MSM's practice of balancing every negative story on Republicans with a "but the Dems are doing it too!" and every reporting of failure of Bush policies with a "but the Dems have no alternative plan!" it's no wonder the public is reacting negatively to both parties.

Still, the Rethugs are getting the worst of the backlash.

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We have exchanged one murderous regime for another. And all for the low, low price of more than 17,000 Americans killed or wounded and 200 billion taxpayer dollars and counting.

If these Iraqi soldiers are as efficient as they are being touted to be by the Sunnis, looks like they'd be just fine if we left -- they should have no trouble wiping out the insurgents, using the same methods that they're employing on the Sunni neighborhoods. Surely Rush and Sean would approve!

The chief suspects, according to Sunni leaders, human rights workers and a well-connected American official here, are current and former members of the Badr Brigade, the Iranian-backed militia controlled by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a principal part of the current government. Since the fall of the Hussein government in April 2003, Badr gunmen are suspected of having assassinated dozens of its former officials, as well as suspected insurgents.

Since April, when the Shiite-led government came to power, Badr fighters have joined the security services, like the police and commando units under the control of the interior minister, Mr. Jabr, who is also a senior member of the Supreme Council.

With Badr gunmen operating inside and outside the government, the militia can act with what appears to be official backing. It is not clear who is directing the security services, the government officials or the heads of the militias.

"The difference between the Ministry of the Interior and the Badr Brigade has become very blurry," the human rights investigator said.

"You have these people in the security services, and they have different masters," said the American official in Baghdad. "There isn't a clear understanding of who is in charge."

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Monday, November 28


Michael Savage was "touched" by Republican California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's mea culpa today. Savage opined that because Cunningham had served in Vietnam, his character is so superior that he must have been misled into accepting millions in bribes by LAWYERS who probably told him, "This is the way it's done -- we've got great lawyers who will make sure nobody ever gets nailed."

Savage was surprised that this "American hero" would risk a "lifetime building a reputation" only to let a "single action" destroy it. The suggestion was that that's unfair. Savage said he wouldn't have been surprised if it had been a New York lawyer Congressman (the implication being that they're all Democrats and crooked).

And that, my friends, is a perfect demonstration of the principle that IOKIYAR. You use his prior public service, especially his military contribution, to establish his sterling character so that any, even egregious, offense is viewed as an aberration.

Pity they don't extend Jack Murtha the same courtesy.

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The price of a corruption scandal.

Could it happen here? Nah.

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Sunday, November 27


Finally, a voice of the MSM has addressed the death of Col. Ted Westhusing. This honorable career military officer died in mysterious circumstances and his tragic end has never been satisfactorily explained by the military or acknowledged by the press, even though at the time he was the highest-ranking officer to have died in Iraq.

I have agonized over this story. I have posted about it repeatedly, here, here, here, and here. As a member of a military family with more than a century of service, I expect our country to honor our fallen dead not with meaningless rhetoric but with a dedication to truth, honor and a resolution that our forces shall not be squandered on political misadventures but deployed to serve the nation's security.

A professor of military ethics at the USMA, Col. Westhusing gallantly volunteered for service in Iraq in order to better serve his students. That he found himself in the midst of an ethical struggle for which he was unprepared, after years of examining and resolving the ethical issues involved with military service, speaks volumes about the questionable conduct of this war.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.

On the Internet and in conversations with one another, Westhusing's family and friends have questioned the military investigation.

A note found in his trailer seemed to offer clues. Written in what the Army determined was his handwriting, the colonel appeared to be struggling with a final question.

How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?

UPDATE: John Reed did a great deal of research about Col. Westhusing's death many months ago, long before the L.A. Times became the first big paper to feature a major article on the subject. John also provided a greater amount of detail than did the paper.

The remarks of Ted Westhusing's father in the comments section give insight into the character and personality of this fine man.

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Joe Biden is furiously backpedaling from his pro-Iraq War stance of several years. Yes, he says, I did advocate more troops be deployed in Iraq, but it's too late now. The intelligence was misrepresented to us in the Congress. We didn't vote for war, we voted for the president to be able to use force to back up the UN resolutions Saddam was defying, and IF he could prove Iraq was an active threat to the U.S. Caveats and debunkings of the intelligence were omitted from the intelligence reports we were given, and the administration lied repeatedly about the threat Iraq posed. Biden's not talking about the president, he says, he's talking about Cheney. Cheney lied, the president misled.

Tim to Senator John Warner (R-VA): Do you believe, in all honesty, the administration took the very best spin on intelligence that would support a case for war?

After detailing Bush's family pedigree (which Tim interrupted), Warner said our president would not, intentionally, take any facts and distort them.

Tim teased Biden about running for president. Biden said sure, I'm investigating the possibilities but if I can't have a viable campaign, I'll remain as John Warner's truth-checker.


The torture debate has been dominated to some extent by the argument that, as in films and TV, it may be a necessary interrogation technique when faced with an imminent danger -- you know, the bad guy knows when and where the president will be assassinated or a nuclear weapon will be discharged, and Ah-nuld or Sly have only minutes to beat the information out of him so the world can be saved for democracy and the American way of life. That fantasy is a distraction from what was settled American principle prior to the Bush-Cheney administration, which essentially claims that anything goes.

The real torture debate, therefore, isn't about whether to throw out the rulebook in the exceptional emergencies. Rather, it's about what the rulebook says about the ordinary interrogation -- about whether you can shoot up Qatani with saline solution to make him urinate on himself, or threaten him with dogs in order to find out whether he ever met Osama bin Laden. And the trouble is that this second debate is so wrapped up in legalisms, jargon and half-truths that it is truly hard to unravel.
In the law of war, military necessity encompasses anything that contributes to victory, so the president's directive really forbids nothing but pointless sadism. Cheney and his new chief of staff, David Addington, have fought the McCain amendment precisely because it would prohibit CID treatment. In short, we comply with our legal obligations because, in the Bush lexicon, we hardly have any.
"We don't torture" means that we don't use worse tactics than CID -- except when we do. Waterboarding (in which a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning) and withholding pain medication for bullet wounds cross the line into torture -- and both have allegedly been used. So does "Palestinian hanging," where a prisoner's arms are twisted behind his back and his wrists are chained five feet above the floor.
McCain has said that ultimately the debate is over who we are. We will never figure that out until we stop talking about ticking bombs, and stop playing games with words.

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